It takes a hell of a lot of effort, guts and some luck to get a watch brand going. More impressive was to do so in the late 1990s in the UK, where frankly there was almost no watch production left. This however is precisely what Nick and Giles English did after suffering a family tragedy in 1995.
The flying-mad family was led by Dr Euan English, an ex -RAF pilot, aeronautical engineer and sometime clock repairer. He owned several historic planes, one of which was a 1942 Harvard AT-6C. It was whilst practising for an airshow at North Weald that it went into an inverted spin and crashed, killing Euan and with Nick suffering near-fatal injuries. It was after this terrible event that the brothers decided to give up their City jobs and realise a dream of starting a watch company.
I must confess that until I was researching for this article I was unaware of all the brand’s history, including the name. Regarding the latter, this starts with an innocuous flying trip in the late 1990s when Nick and Giles were flying a vintage German biplane in France. The engine began to sound rough, so, having decided to check it out, they successfully landed in a farmer’s pea field! They met the farmer who kindly lodged the plane in a barn overnight so that it could be worked on without the authorities getting involved. After some tinkering, they were able to complete their journey home. The farmer’s name? Monsieur Bremont!
By 2002 the company was up and running, and in 2007 they launched their first watch. Intervening years have seen numerous models launched – mainly “tool” watches, i.e. that have a specific practical purpose. Models with an aeronautical bent are of course unsurprising. For example a tie-up with ejector seat maker Martin Baker, then watches that contained small pieces of Concorde and the Spruce Goose. There was even a model with wood and brass elements from HMS Victory! MOD sanction has also been attained for some pieces.
Today, the company has certainly been a success with production now at some 10,000 units p.a. The brothers own (and run) the company along with a handful of private investors. Whilst the movements are Swiss sourced, many components are made in the UK at a factory set up in 2014. Quality is high – with some models being to chronometer standard and reasonably affordable. All watches are assembled in the UK and come with a 3-year warranty.
Those who endure The Writer’s scribblings will know that he quite likes chronographs. In the men’s watch domain this type has pretty major representation so competition is tough. There are any number of more famous brands out there who produce perfectly good examples below, at and above Bremont’s price bracket. As such, an extra soupçon of design has to be found and Bremont may just have succeeded!
The U2-51/JET model (featured in the film Venom on Eddie Brook’s wrist) was a success, but now a further development with a military type chronograph variant being conceived. Of course the connection with both is Richard Browning – the “Iron Man” Jet Pack flyer, with his company Gravity Industries. As he dresses in black then so the watches should be too, and this one is the ALT1- P2 JET. It was announced in March with examples being shipped in June. Oh, and it will also feature in the Venom sequel out shortly!
So, what exactly do we have? Well, I am examining a press example in front of me and this reveals a solid-looking, hefty, stainless steel-cased chronograph of some 43 mm x 16 mm. The case (and bracelet if chosen) is finished in black, using the DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating method which is extremely hard-wearing. The finish is finely brushed and under a loupe has the appearance of carbon fibre. The case is assembled using Bremont’s patented Trip-Tick method, which essentially splits the watch housing into three – the bezel/glass, central body, then the case back. The case itself is of a fairly standard pilot-chrono appearance, but the sides have two channels thereby slimming the watch somewhat. The average-sized bezel is plain. Simple but nicely sized and shaped lugs (spaced at 22 mm) emerge and drop down from the case top. Neat round glossy black pushers are within small collars and are in line with the fairly meaty crown – which has nice knurling for grip. This is essentially black but is capped by a polished stainless ring and propeller logo. At 10 is the quick-date corrector – not in black though.
The motive power of the watch comes from movement BE-53AE. This is based on the ubiquitous ETA Valjoux 7753 caliber, albeit with a couple of Bremont modifications – like the bespoke rotor and decoration. This calibre goes back to 2002, but has parentage way back to the 7750 of the early 1970s. It is a workhorse chronograph movement of a cam variety, but is reliable and has some quality components such as an Anachron balance spring, Glucydur balance wheel and Niverflex mainspring – all made of special alloys that are non-magnetic and are affected little by temperature variations. The watch beats at 28,800 vph and has a 42-hour power reserve, all smoothed along via 27 jewels. This movement is certified to ISO 3159 chronometer standard, so must not lose more than 4 seconds per day, or gain more than 6 seconds per day. The watch has an “exhibition” back made from smoked crystal. Upon closer inspection with a loupe, one can just about make out the rotor detail – some sunburst brushing and Bremont picked out in red. There is also some perlage and brushing on the bridges and plates, however the opaque glass makes scrutiny somewhat difficult. Water resistance is to 100 m.
As usual I have left the dial to last as this, to some extent, should get the main focus. It does not matter much what the make is, the movement, or even the quality, if the dial is not attractive and appealing to the eye. To my mind, this visual feast hits the nail on the head in terms of impact, uniqueness and practicality. The inner bezel (chapter ring) has a minute track, marked numerically in 5 minute intervals. This has an inverted triangle with a red border at 12. At the dial edge there is simply a minute track punctuated with triangles and squares every 5 minutes. Inboard of this are large Arabic numbers – except at 3, 6 and 9. All are a creamy/tan colour from the lume (a thick Super-LumiNova® custom “51” coating), edged in what looks like a bronze colour. At 4.30 is a square date window, canted, the numbers being in the same cream colour. There are the usual three registers – at 3 the minute counter, at 6 the hour counter and at 9 the running seconds. All have their hands and numbers in cream – save for the numbers at 12, which are in red, plus, the running seconds dial has a red hand. The main hands are sword shaped nickel coated black, but heavily filled with lume. The second hand is also in black, but near the end has a “lollipop” filled with lume bordered in red, with the tip ending in white. Lastly, Bremont and the propeller logo, is under 12, along with London above 6. The whole scene is covered by a sapphire crystal which has an anti-reflective finish achieved by vapour coating on both sides. At night the lume provides quite adequate luminescence.
The whole assemble is finished off – on this watch at least, with a pretty thick leather strap with a black tang buckle. At the lug end and at its thickest, it is a whopping 7 mm and this more or less goes on for some 3 cm. It makes the strap on my Panerai look, well, rather anaemic!
So, what are my conclusions. Overall, I really like the watch. It is robust, attractive, different and will be reliable. I like the combination of the black dial and that “vintage” coloured lume, with the latter being quite sufficient at night. There is a fair amount of detail on the dial, but it just scrapes inside the “not too busy” verdict. I would have preferred the date to be horizontal in order to aid reading and to align with other numbers, but that is just me. The movement of course is tried and tested and has chronometer quality, so there should be no accuracy or reliability issues. I cannot comment on the bracelet version, but one assumes it meets usually acceptable criteria in terms of clasp action and size adjustment – although the whole ensemble may be a little weighty. Lastly, the leather strap. Well, it is a good colour/finish for the watch, however, I did not find it particularly comfortable. Maybe it will give more over time, but one wonders why it needed to be quite so thick in the first place?
The prices are £4,195 on a strap and £4,595 for the bracelet, and I feel for what you get these are quite fair. Pieces should be available now so if you are tempted, and why not, you know what to do!
Words & Images: The Writer